Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I received the ARC for my forthcoming horror novel I, DEATH the other day.

Cover for I, Death, designed by Bret Taylor

It's quite stunning. And I have to say that working with Ian, the publisher and owner of Atomic Fez, has been an absolute blast. He is an editor who knows what he likes, knows what he dislikes, and he pulls no punches in telling me that something about the story or plot is stupid and needs to be revised. His suggestions, edits and revisions to my novel (hilarious as many of his notes were), helped refine the story into something that I'm quite pleased with.

Front of the ARC - Releasing October 2014

I'll be on a flight to Texas for Romance Writers Association's annual conference soon and will likely be using most of my "air time" to go through the ARC and make some final proofing notes.  It's quite amazing to see this as a printed book after the long history the novel has had. The first half of the novel originally appeared as a "real-time" story told on a blog in 2006; I then sold the expanded novel version to Ian about a year or so later, when he was editing for a UK based publisher.  That particular publishing house didn't survive, but not long after when Ian started his own publishing company, he said he was still interested in the novel; but with only a book or perhaps two coming out per year, it would take a while to see the light of day.  Working with Ian has been very satisfying and was definitely worth the wait.

Back cover of the ARC
There's a wonderful quote from Halifax's the extraordinary storyteller and writer, Steve Vernon which is derived from the Foreword he wrote for the book:

"I, Death is a death rattle coming of age story; it is a song, and it is the world's funniest dirty joke - all rolled into one."
Oh, and, if Steve's quote wasn't warning enough, let me add a note on the content. I, DEATH includes raw horror and pretty nasty and disturbing moments with people doing really bad things to one another. It's not for the faint of heart. To demonstrate Ian's wry humour, check out the PUBLISHER'S NOTE disclaimer on the copyright page which addresses this....

That's right - following the standard "this is a work of fiction....any resemblance to any real places or purely coincidental" but is then followed by:  "Any scenes involving alcohol, drugs, and / or teen-age sex are not in any way an endorsement of these sorts of behaviour by the publisher or the author. Kids: don't do drugs, stay in school, use a condom. Word, yo." 

I've only met Ian once in person. At a brew pub. Imagine that? We not only share an affinity for twisted and dark humour, but we also share a passion for discovering fine new beers.  I'll be seeing him again when we do the pre-launch for I, DEATH at When Words Collide in Calgary in just a couple of weeks. Though the book officially releases in October, this will be a launch party with a special pre-release edition of the book which won't be available anywhere else.  [Facebook Event Info]

The book is in pre-order now (via all your favourite bookish places), or please request it/order it through your favourite local bookstore. (Only the print version is available for pre-order through retailers - the eBook isn't yet appearing in their catalogs) The story is also unrolling for free on Wattpad, if you want to get a head start on the story. There will likely be a Goodreads giveaway once we get a bit closer to official release time.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Warrior Dash 2014

Another Warrior Dash weekend in Barrie, Ontario has come and gone. It is always a weekend filled with much mirth, hanging out with both old and new friends, and, of course, somewhere in there, some running, too.

Pierre adding dye to Chad's beard

Is it too late to be reading the instructions WHILE dye is being added to my hair?

As always, Pierre and I spent part of the day hanging around the beer gardens enjoying the many free beer tags that were given to us. (One of the benefits of wearing a warrior costume is that people who aren't using their beer ticket give them to you - not that we needed any free beer - the giant "Beeramid" we had created above the fireplace in the condo was doing okay all on its own)

Pierre, Chad, Tricia and me prior to the race

Pierre, Trish and I after the race (Chad must have been at the beer tent already)

As had become tradition, we shaved our heads after the race. We tried dying our hair blond the night before, but starting with black hair (okay, mostly black with a little bit of grey), the hair only lightened a bit. So we then dyed half of our heads black (but it ended up turning a strange blue hue -- hmm, maybe the combination of two different hair dyes in a short time period combined with the chlorine from the swimming pools had something to do with it.

Pointing out each other's beer bellies
Menacing warriors are here to drink all your beer!

One of the funniest moments from the weekend was while walking around the beer gardens and posing for pictures with so many different people. It's fun to ham for the camera; people are always in such a happy and playful mood when you're in a costume. And we had three different people we posed with let us know that we simply HAD to pose with them because they have a picture with us from every year of the Dash.

Pierre and I hanging out with some pals from The Basement Fitness in Sudbury
The post-dash buzz cut is complete - now we're Breaking Marking Bad!

As always, the whole weekend was a really fun time. Somewhere in there we managed to make new friends, annoy old friends, bump into old high school pals, get lots of swimming in with the kids and help the kids discover the joys of fishing, paddle boats and catching frogs from a pond.

Good times.

Previous Warrior Dash Summaries:  2013, 2012, 2011 (This one I actually talk more about the run itself and less about the beer and hanging out in the beer tent)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Push And Pull Of The Editorial Process

I'm about halfway through the proof version of my latest non-fiction paranormal book for Dundurn, Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores & Libraries and have to say that I'm really pleased with the editorial and design team.

A draft of the cover flat for Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores and Libraries
Yes, I'll admit, the process wasn't without frustration. I'm quite passionate about both bookish locales as well as sharing ghost stories, so there was a lot of me, personally, invested into this manuscript.

Too much me, perhaps.

I spent a bit too much time dwelling on my own passion for bookstores, for libraries, for spooky stories. Content that might bring value to an in person author appearance or talk, but which might be too much for the pages of this particular manuscript.

I needed an unbiased editorial viewpoint to keep me from diverging too far off the path that would appeal to the broadest audience.

I disagreed, of course, with several suggestions for how to revise the book, saw value in many other suggestions, and stubbornly pushed and prodded in that ego-centric way that authors can sometimes fall back to when someone else is trying to "rain on their parade" by suggesting an alternative way to approach something.

So there was push and pull, and disagreement.

But at the end of the day, as I'm halfway through a solid proofing read of the book, I have to say, I'm impressed.

Unedited proof showing sidebar of the "side story" for a chapter

The editorial team at Dundurn took what was a pretty good manuscript that I turned in and they have helped to craft it into something pretty amazing. The book takes just the right balance of speculative wonder about the paranormal and an appreciation for bookstores and libraries, offering something of value for both camps of potential readers without going too far off in one direction. A great editorial suggestion to pull some of the "back-story elements" from the main body of some of the chapters and insert that into sidebar boxes works brilliantly. 

This worked nicely, because, in doing research for the book, I fell in love with the history of the locale I was writing about and wanted to share interesting tidbits of the building's history or some intriguing factual notes that were related to the original story. The problem, though, is they didn't add to the main story as well.

Tomes of Terror isn't exactly the book I had envisioned when I pitched the book to Dundurn.

It's even better.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Guest Post: Michael Cairns - Art & Fatherhood

The following is a guest blog post from Michael Cairnes as part of The Planets Blog Tour of July 2014.

ART & FATHERHOOD by Michael Cairns

Every week day I get up and go to work. And every day when I get to work, at the horribly early hour of 6:50, I sit at my drums for half an hour and practice, then I sit at my desk and write for forty minutes. At eight, school begins and I put my other head on.

When I get home, after time with my family and my daughter is in bed, I open my laptop and put in an average of 3 hours on writing, editing and marketing I do this every single day, day in day out. I do it because I love it and I do it because I feel compelled. And I do it because I want to be able to say to my daughter that I never gave up on doing the things I love and following my dreams.

There’s more to it than that though. I also do it because I believe that every single person can make a living doing what they love. Not what they’ve come to like because they didn’t have any choice, but what they truly know, in their heart of hearts, they are destined to do. I want my daughter to grow up believing that as deeply as she can.

The world in which we live is both a creative’s paradise and at complete odds with the way we, as creatives, want to live. It is a world dominated by money and its power over how we live our lives. But it also has more people consuming more art than at any other time in history. This has led to a world in which millions of people are creative but far too many of them hide it, or view it as a pastime that has no more value than watching the latest episode of blah blah blah. 

As a secondary school teacher, I deal every day with students whose parents have told them not to take or study music because it won’t get them anywhere, and because they won’t learn anything useful. After scraping the blood off the walls, I calmly explain to the students that their now sadly-deceased parents were wrong. I explain that art can give you something no amount of money ever will.  But I know as I’m drumming this into them that I am fighting against a tide of belief that art, and the creation of it, are somewhat secondary in our culture. A frivolous nice to have but not worthy of any real commitment or as a career choice in its own right.

Art and the creation of art develops skills. It develops the skills of perseverance and dedication. It develops the ability to think using all parts of your brain. It gives you the chance to appreciate things that normal life rushes you past before you even notice it. Art gives you stillness in times of chaos and it gives you energy when all you want to do is sleep. It develops self-belief and self-confidence and above all, it teaches you that life is about more than consuming.

I would like my children to grow up believing that art is as valuable to the world as food and sleep and far more important than money.

Why is it as important as food and sleep?

Because we are no longer hunter-gatherers. Because, for the vast, lucky majority of us, our lives can and should mean more than surviving. And this is where art comes in. Art, meaning stories, paintings, music, dance, theatre, and many other things, reminds us of all the worlds that exist beyond us. We are not isolated vessels, drifting through dangerous seas. We are part of the sea and the more art we appreciate, the more of other people soul’s we look into, the more we become one.

Art brings us together, even when our taste leads us to disagree. In that thought, in that elevation from animals to thinking beings, we become closer.

I want my daughter to be part of that world. I want her to bring people closer together. I want her to feel rich in her heritage of coming from a family in which art and the sheer pleasure of creation is valued as highly as any other skill. And I want her to remember that her dreams, no matter what they are, are blueprints for her life, signposts to be followed to happiness.

Chocoholic Michael Cairns is a writer and author of the superhero fantasy series, The Planets and science fiction adventure series, A Game of War. A musician, father and school teacher, when not writing he can be found behind his drum kit, tucking into his chocolate stash or trying, and usually failing, to outwit his young daughter.

Download a free copy of Michael's novella Childhood Dreams (A Game of War, Part one) at -- you will also find podcasts, free short stories, info about Michael, and of course, links to where you can buy his books. Check out The Planets Blog Tour

The Spirit Room on Kobo, Kindle and Smashwords 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Three Ways To Get EVASION For FREE

My novella thriller EVASION has been continuing to receive positive feedback since it was featured on Wattpad in late May for a day.  It now has almost 82,000 reads, almost 1200 votes from readers and a demand to read the next book in the series.

I suppose this means that, for NaNoWriMo 2014, I'll have to write the sequel.....

If you're interested in reading it, there are currently 3 different ways you can read it for free.


  •  Wattpad - you can read 100% of the book, 100% of the time, for free on Wattpad.  You can read it online or download the mobile Wattpad app.  All free.


  • DIGITAL BOOK DAY - Monday July 14th will be Digital Book Day - produced by the wonderful "thrillers with heart" author CJ Lyons, it includes a giveaway of digital books in multiple genres from authors from around the world.  Please note that the links on this site will only be live for Monday July 14, 2014, so this is a limited time offer.
Digital Book Day


  • Goodreads Giveaway - 10 copies of the print book (which retails for $14.95 US) will be available through this Goodreads promotion. It's a random draw from all entrants, but 10 chances to win! (The chance to enter, closes July 30, 2014) :)

So there - you now have 3 different ways of getting access to read EVASION for free. A couple of digital ways and one way to get it free in print. 

The book is currently available for sale on Amazon in print and eBook (regular price $4.99, but reduced to 99 cents at Amazon for Monday July 14th) and Kobo (where it's FREE on Monday July 14th) and Smashwords (other retailers coming soon)

If you do read it, I would greatly appreciate you reviewing the book on your favourite online review spot (most commonly, folks post reviews to Goodreads and Amazon)